How can you treat her so / too badly? Which is correct, so or too or both?


When you treat someone badly, you donโ€™t give them enough respect. Youโ€™re possibly rude or even aggressive to that person.
Itโ€™s much more probable that you would ask the question: โ€˜How can you treat her so badly?โ€™

  • I didnโ€™t call my mum on her birthday. In fact, we havenโ€™t spoken for nearly a year.
  • How can you treat her so badly? Sheโ€™s your mother. Donโ€™t you appreciate what she has done for you?

While in the above example the word โ€˜soโ€™ modifies the adverb โ€˜badlyโ€™, it may also be used to modify adjectives. To learn more about adjectives and adverbs, check out the following post:
Could you tell me when to use adverbs and when to use adjectives?



  • Iโ€™m sorry youโ€™re so upset. Whatโ€™s wrong?
  • The One Direction concert was horrible. If Iโ€™d known it was going to be so bad, I would have gone to the Justin Bieber concert instead.
  • They sang really badly. If I sang so badly, I would take singing lessons.

โ€˜Soโ€™ always refers to some information that we already know or have been given:

  • so upset (I can see how upset you are, I use the word โ€˜soโ€™ to refer to the degree)
  • so bad (Iโ€™ve told you how horrible the concert was. โ€˜Soโ€™ refers to the degree)
  • so badly (Iโ€™ve told you how badly they sang. โ€˜Soโ€™ refers to the degree)You may also use this structure followed by โ€˜thatโ€™:
  • They sang so badly that everyone plugged their ears.
  • I was so angry that I tore up my ticket and left.



  • Iโ€™m too old to become a pop star.
  • I sing too badly to become a pop star.

โ€˜Tooโ€™ means โ€˜more than enough/ to a regrettable degreeโ€™. Your example โ€˜How can you treat her too badly?โ€™ sounds very strange. It implies that there is no treatment that would be bad enough for her. It makes me think that she deserves to be treated as badly as possible.
Letโ€™s look at better exampe:

  • Nadine says that Pete loves her too much.
  • How can you love someone too much?

This means that there is no amount of love that would be excessive. You can love anybody as much as you want. It will never be too much.


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